Co-Parenting During the Holidays


In a divorce involving children, I believe one of the hardest parts of figuring out custody arrangements is how to divide the holidays. The second part of the holiday is to make sure the parents don’t compete with each other to buy their children’s love.

I have seen many clients become so enraged at the thought of spending the holidays apart from their children.  It took me a couple of mediations to realize that the parents weren’t angry, they were scared.  Scared of change.  Scared of being alone.  Scared that they think their children won’t love them.  So in order to make-up for those feelings, the anger turns to spite and Christmas turns into a present competition.  Who buys the best presents?  The most expensive presents?  The biggest presents?

These emotions are real and are definitely validated, however, parents need to remember that the holidays are not a competition.  Celebrating holidays the first year after a divorce is an adjustment and instead of worked against the other parent, BOTH parents need to work together to help the children adjust to this new way of life.

At the end of the day, ask yourself. “What are we really celebrating?” The holiday, or the day the holiday just happens to land on in that calendar year? So what if it was an even number year and your ex has the children for Christmas? Does that mean they can’t celebrate Christmas with the other parent, because they won’t be there? Absolutely not!

I have a funny story that will put this all into perspective. On the morning of my 20thbirthday, before I drove back to college, I had breakfast with my parents. As we were waiting for our food, my dad made an off-the-cuff remark about the time and how 20 years ago, I was just born. I looked at him and asked what he was talking about. It was around 9:00 AM, and I was born at 1:56 AM.

Well, my dad and I went back and forth a few times before we noticed my mom hadn’t said a word. When she finally piped up, she admitted I was born at 1:56 AM, but she didn’t call my dad until the morning, because she wanted to sleep. (My mom was scheduled to have a C-section the following day but went into labor early. My dad was home with my brother.)

I laughed so hard when my mom confessed about the time difference, but as for my dad? Not so much. He was a little ticked off, which of course I found to be more hilarious. By the time my mom and dad finished their little argument over why my mom didn’t call him 20 years ago when she went into labor, we were all laughing.

Who cares what time I was born? I’m here, aren’t I?

In the end, a holiday is just a day – it’s how you celebrate that holiday that matters most. There may be some years when we celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday or Christmas on December 26. As long as you celebrate with your children, it really doesn’t make a difference if we are celebrating the day of, does it?

I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday season, no matter which day you celebrate.